Scientists Just Discovered an Unexpected 'Side Effect' of Aspirin

April 21st 2017

Almie Rose

For years, scientists have been eyeing baby aspirin as a possible aid in preventing cancer — like an "apple a day"-type situation but, instead of an apple, over-the-counter drugs.

As Forbes reported this week, the "evidence is growing" that the drug, intended to relieve minor pain and fevers, can prevent cancer.

Indeed, a new study released just this month found a "side effect" of aspirin is its positive impact on overall health.

The study, published April 3, was led by Yin Cao at Harvard, who has conducted several studies on the possible benefits of aspirin; her last one was published June 2016. In her latest study, Cao and researchers worked with a sample size of 86,206 women and 43,977 men who had no history of serious health problems (like cancer, heart disease, or stroke).

The participants were tracked for 32 years. During this time, they were given "0.5 to 1.5 standard aspirin tablets" a week in order to determine if low doses of aspirin had a positive, long-term impact on overall health, with a particular focus on cancer prevention.

aspirin tablets

Here's what the study found.

"The benefit of aspirin on cancer mortality appeared evident with use of at least 0.5 to 1.5 standard aspirin tablets per week for both men and women; and the minimum duration of regular use associated with lower cancer mortality was 6 years."

In plainer English, what that means is: "Long-term aspirin use was associated with reduced risk of total mortality, primary due to reduced risk of dying from cancers."

How reduced? Forbes breaks it down (emphasis ours): "Overall, woman had a 7 percent reduction in the relative risk of dying from any cause and men had a 11 percent reduction."

Seven to 11 percent may not sound like a lot, but it's big considering the only thing these people did to reduce their risk of cancer was take low doses of aspirin a few times a week. The Mayo Clinic defines "low dose" as 75-81 milligrams, which is about the dose one finds in a standard bottle at a drugstore.

Bayer aspirin

However, as with anything regarding your health, you should probably talk to your doctor.

For some people, aspirin can actually be deadly. Your doctor knows your medical history and can give you a better sense of what's right for you, personally, than any study.